The results indicate Microsoft still has work to do to create a bigger buzz about Windows 8 and help consumers understand the new operating system's benefits, even though the company provided several previews of the software at various stages in the final 13 month leading to its release. But the information apparently resonated mostly with industry analysts, reporters, technology blogs and gadget geeks.
Microsoft is in the early stages of an estimated $1 billion marketing campaign that will include a siege of television commercials to promote Windows 8 to a wider audience.
That still might not be enough to sway longtime Windows users such as Mary Sweeten. She is 75, and not eager to learn the nuances of a new operating system. She, too, is comfortable with her current desktop computer running on Windows 7.
"I am not technologically savvy like all these young kids," said Sweeten, who lives in Camdenton, Mo. "I like something I am used to and can get around on without too much trouble. Sometimes when you get these new (systems), you wish you could go back to the old one."
Windows 8 represents Microsoft's attempt to adapt to a technological shift that is empowering more people to use smartphones and tablets to surf the Web and handle other simple computing tasks. The revamped system can be controlled by touching a device's display screen and greets users with a mosaic of tiles featuring an array of dynamic applications instead of the old start menu and desktop tiles. In an effort to protect its still-lucrative PC franchise, Microsoft designed Windows 8 so it can still be switched into a desktop mode that relies on a keyboard and mouse for commands.
Microsoft felt it had to gamble on a radical redesign to fend off the competitive threats posed by Apple, which has emerged as the world's most valuable company on the strength of its iPhone and iPad. Google is a threat, too. It has used its 4-year-old Android operating system to become an influential force in the mobile computing movement.
Despite the growing popularity of smartphones, Microsoft remains deeply entrenched in people's lives. The poll found 80% of respondents with personal computers in their homes relied on earlier versions of Windows vs. only 12% that operating on Apple's Mac system.